Jaguar boosts Solihull plant with 800 new jobs

Luxury car-maker bucks sector's moribund  trend as it responds to  international demand

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The Independent Online

Jaguar Land Rover will give the British carmaking industry a much-needed boost today, as the luxury motor manufacturer announces 800 new jobs at its factory in Solihull.

Just two days after Honda sent shockwaves through the UK car industry by announcing 800 job cuts in Swindon, Jaguar Land Rover said demand for its luxury vehicles from countries such as China, the US and Russia was now so strong that it would be recruiting additional staff.

The Solihull plant employs and makes the Range Rover, Discovery and Defender models. It has been making vehicles since 1948.

The group revealed plans to beef up its Solihull plant as it reported a 30 per cent surge in global sales to a record 357,773 vehicles for last year.

China became the group's biggest market last year, overtaking the UK after sales to the country soared by 71 per cent to 71,940 vehicles. The UK came next, with sales increasing 19 per cent to a record 68,333, followed by the US, up 11 per cent at 55,675. Sales to Russia and Germany increased by 43 per cent and 41 per cent respectively. Speaking as the Detroit motor show kicked off, Phil Popham, Jaguar Land Rover's director of group sales, said: "2012 has been a strong year… Looking ahead to 2013, we are continuing to invest in our business to support our ambitious plans for growth and we will be introducing eight new or refreshed products throughout the year."

The new jobs continue a remarkable turnaround at Jaguar Land Rover since India's Tata motors bought the company from Ford in 2008 for £1.1bn.

At that point the company was struggling as the credit crisis had hit sales hard and it was making about 100,000 cars a year.

However, Tata injected cash into the business and sales rebounded. The company is now two years into a five-year expansion plan with a target of making 600,000 sales a year. The expansion plans include the launch of a sporty new Range Rover, which is expected to be unveiled in April.

They demonstrate that demand for luxury products is holding up well, especially in fast-growing emerging markets such as China and Russia.

It will come as a sharp relief to Britain's car industry after the more mainstream car-maker, Honda, announced a further 800 job losses at its Swindon plant on Friday, blaming weak demand across Europe.

This was the first time Honda has cut its workforce at the plant – which produces the Civic, Jazz and CR-V models – since it came to the UK in 1992. The redundancies raised fears there could be more job losses on the cards in the mainstream UK vehicle-making industry, with demand in Europe's beleaguered car industry at its weakest for nearly two decades and the market showing little sign of recovery.

Earlier this month, GM – which owns UK-based Vauxhall – shocked the industry when it forecast that European care sales will weaken further this year. The UK exports 82 per cent of the cars it makes, of which about half go to Europe.